A Gift of Blood, Life and Love

April 5, 2018 at 2:58 pm

By Bill Harper

Local donors gave Allison a second life — and an unexpected connection at Bloodworks gave her the love of her life. 

Allison’s heart transplant surgery was supported by 19 units of blood from Bloodworks donors.

“Her name is Sojourner Truth Bush. I say ‘is’ because I keep her with me in my mind all the time, and I thank her every day because I am, in a way, carrying on her legacy.”

That’s how Allison Trimble, 34, remembers the forever 22-year-old Washington State University student who, in the hours after a tragic car accident in 2000, gave her a new heart and what she calls “the gift of a second life.”

Sojourner wasn’t the only person who helped Allison that day–Bloodworks Northwest donors also gave her the 19 units of blood she needed during her transplant surgery to give her the best chance of survival.

***

During her sophomore year of high school, the symptoms of what Allison would later learn was a genetic heart disease were at first all too easy to compensate for and explain away. When she would gasp for air trying to sleep on her back, Allison would roll over to her side. When she had almost-daily bouts of severe nausea in class, the school nurse asked her if she was anorexic and felt safe at home. And even when she was so tired she could barely stay awake in class, alarm bells still didn’t sound. “I learned later this was my body shutting down,” she remembered. “My organs were all shutting down one by one.”

“My organs were all shutting down one by one.”

After months of declining performance in gym class, people around Allison started noticing something wasn’t right. “We were treading water one day and, quite frankly, I think I almost didn’t make it,” Allison said. “I almost couldn’t get over to the side of the pool. And I was breathing so hard I couldn’t really get out on my own.” Allison’s teacher had her sit out of the pool the rest of the day. “You need to go in and get tested for asthma,” she told her.

That asthma test probably saved Allison’s life.

A physician at the local clinic prescribed Allison an inhaler while waiting for the routine CT scan results to come back. Several days later, the scan revealed that Allison’s heart was slightly enlarged and that weekend, her symptoms worsened dramatically. “I really couldn’t move from the couch, and just being awake was difficult. I was getting really dizzy, and anytime I sat up or stood up my blood pressure would just drop.”

After barely making it into the clinic for a cardiac ultrasound that following Tuesday, Allison was admitted to the ICU at Seattle Children’s Hospital. The physicians there ordered an ejection fraction test, which measures how much blood the left ventricle of the heart pumps out with each beat. A result below 40 percent is considered heart failure. Allison’s was 8 percent. “They said to me, ‘We’re shocked you’re actually conscious right now,’” she remembered.

“They said to me, ‘We’re shocked you’re actually conscious right now.’”

Allison was diagnosed with a genetic heart disease called familial cardiomyopathy. After 18 days in the ICU, she was added to the heart transplant list and allowed to return home. “I had a pager at home and I was waiting for the possibility for the call to come that a heart had come in,” Allison said. “That’s when fear started to set into my heart, and into my mind. I had to find a way to be okay with it.”

When that call did come, with Sojourner’s gift and the life-sustaining help of 19 units of blood from Bloodworks donors, Allison survived her heart transplant operation and began her “second life.”

***

Allison met her future husband, Dave, while volunteering with Bloodworks.

Four years would pass from Allison’s transplant date before Bloodworks Northwest would give her another gift.

Back then, she was working at a pizza shop and volunteering for Bloodworks in her free time. “I went to speak at one of their luncheons thanking a group of donors, and my coworker at the time was there with his father being recognized for donating blood several times that year. And that was the moment when I fell in love with him.”

“My coworker was being recognized for donating blood several times a year. That was the moment I fell in love with him.”

Allison Hansen and Dave Trimble weren’t even particularly close at that time, but it didn’t take long for that to change. “The fact that he cared about something that was so close to my heart played a huge role in me deciding that he was for me,” Allison said with a giggle. “So in another personal aspect, Bloodworks has played a huge role in my life.”

The pair married a year later and in 2018 they’ll celebrate their 14th anniversary. According to Allison, her gratitude for the gifts she has been given – from Sojourner, from her blood donors, from her husband, and from her second life – defies explanation. “Their gift,” she says, “their time spent away from work or family to spend time with an uncomfortable needle in their arm has meant a life for me. It’s hard to explain to someone what that means to you other than to just to say thank you, you are amazing.”

Bloodworks First Person: “My mom inspires my work.”

March 23, 2018 at 9:42 am

Welcome to Bloodworks First Person, a series profiling Bloodworks Northwest employees, volunteers and donors by asking them a few questions about their life, insights and inspirations. Today’s First Person comes from Devon Steinbacher, a Bloodworks Cord Blood Laboratory Operations Specialist, donor and volunteer. Keep reading to learn a trick for platelet donors Devon picked up as a phlebotomist and the reason she included Bloodworks in her estate plan.   

Name: Devon Steinbacher
Bloodworks Employee Since: 2013
Role: Cord Blood Laboratory Operations Specialist

My first Bloodworks job was…On Mobile 2 as a phlebotomist out of Georgetown (Seattle). Now I work as a Laboratory Operations Specialist in Bloodworks’ Cord Blood Department. We support public cord blood banking and cancer patients being re-infused with their own stem cells. We also ship cord blood units to transfusion centers and hospitals worldwide, working closely with the National Marrow Donor Program.

I’ve been a blood donor…Since before I started working here. I began donating in 2010-2011, switched to platelets pretty quickly and became a Bloodworks volunteer while I was in school.

My mom…inspires me. She was diagnosed with stage three metastatic lung cancer when I was five years old and needed a lot of platelet transfusions. It was a no-brainer once I figured out how I could give back.

Something that may surprise you is…I included Bloodworks in my estate plans. I know it takes blood and money to ensure that we are able to continue our life-saving work. As a member of the Northwest community and as the daughter of someone who needed blood, I am dedicated to helping Bloodworks continue to grow and save lives.

A trick of my trade is…As a phlebotomist, figuring out donors’ favorite Tums flavors. Platelet donors sometimes have a mild tingling sensation from the anticoagulant during the donation process which can be quickly alleviated with the calcium in Tums.

The one thing I’d tell Bloodworks donors…You come in and you do this amazing thing that’s uncomfortable, but the impact that you’ve had has been so far-reaching but also close to home. It’s very likely that someone knows someone that needs blood products and without our blood donors we couldn’t survive.

My favorite post-donation snack is…Definitely Doritos. Anything salty at all.

Do you know someone who’s making a difference as a part of the Bloodworks community? Send your suggestions for future Bloodworks First Person profiles to feedback@bloodworksnw.org. 

Blood Donation Love Stories for Valentine’s Day

February 14, 2018 at 10:56 am

Over nearly 75 years, we’ve noticed blood donations have a special way of bringing people together. To find out if we’re on to something, we asked our community to share their “blood donation love stories” — times donating blood not only strengthened local patients, but also their personal relationships. In honor of Valentine’s Day, we share those stories — the funny, profound, sweet and extraordinary…

Renée and her father at her wedding.

“When I was a kid, my dad would often bring me along while he donated blood. I thought it was so cool watching him help people he would never even meet. Seeing his love for others in action really inspired me, and I decided I would start donating as soon as I turned 16. Now my mom has been fighting advanced ovarian cancer for five years, which has motivated me even more to help people like her who need blood products. My dad never set out to make me a lifelong donor, but when we lead by example we inspire others to show love as well.”

–Renée 

Blood donors Catherine and Jeff.

“My spouse and I compete with each other to see who can pump that pint out fastest. He usually beats me (my veins are crap), but every once in a while…”

–Catherine

Lili and her mom.

“My mom has pretty severe anemia, to the point where sometimes she even needs blood transfusions. Due to this, since I was young she always made sure I kept watch on my iron levels. To this day, I’m healthy and I donate regularly! She always thanks me and lets me know how proud of me she is, even though we live in different states. I hope that I am able to help others out there like my mother.”

–Lili

Liz and Tom

“Very early in dating, donating blood together was an important test for Tom to pass. It tells a lot about someone’s character.”

–Liz

Amandalyn and her father.

“My father passed away from a heart attack on Valentine’s Day when I was five, so I haven’t celebrated it since. But why not turn something bad into something good? This year I made an appointment for myself and my boyfriend so he can give his first-ever donation. We are donating platelets and along with getting back into the swing of regularly donating blood again, I also hope to make this our yearly way of celebrating Valentine’s Day – showing some love by giving some blood.”

–Amandalyn 

Rozi and Brandon at a mobile blood drive.

“We had been dating for less than a month when I asked him if he’d like to donate blood. He never had before, but after reassuring him that it was painless and easy, he was on board. We’ve spent the last four years donating together, usually whole blood, but we’ve also donated platelets too. While I’ve been donating more than half my life, I’m super proud of my fiancé who just earned his 1 gallon pin!”

–Rozi

Beth and Franz at the Bloodworks Bellevue Donor Center.

“My hubby volunteers in the canteen while I donate platelets. We’ve gotten a few odd looks when I get a smooch with my cranberry juice!”

–Beth

Thank you for supporting local patients on Valentine’s Day and all year long. If you’d like to give a Valentine that lasts a lifetime (and maybe even create some new memories), schedule your next blood donation with us.

On Being (and Inspiring) Women In Science

February 7, 2018 at 12:55 pm

In honor of International Women and Girls in Science Day on February 11, Bloodworks Northwest’s Dr. Sherrill Slichter and Dr. Emily Fawcett spoke with KIRO-FM Radio about what it’s like to be women in science – and how adults can help more young women pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.

Below, we’ve highlighted some of their most thoughtful, motivating – and surprising – insights and advice.

For more inspiration, join us at the Pacific Science Center’s Science in the City event on Feb. 20, where Dr. Slichter will discuss her challenges and triumphs as a gender trailblazer.

From Dr. Sherrill Slichter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Dr. Slichter is Bloodworks’ Director of Platelet Transfusion. With a career spanning more than 50 years, her platelet and blood cell clotting research is credited with making bone marrow transplantation possible, extending the lives of cancer patients around the world.

On responding to bullies: “When I went to medical school, they had restricted admissions for women, so there were only five women. This gentleman sat down next to me and recognized me as being one of his classmates. He bent over and said, ‘Do you understand that you’re taking the place of someone who could use this education?’ I really didn’t respond because what can you say? The guy was an idiot.”

On the value of educating women: “Of the five women who were there, every single one of us practiced medicine and – with the exception of a couple of us – still are practicing medicine.”

On believing in yourself: “My high school biology professor, when I wanted to take math, chemistry and physics, said ‘You can’t possibly do that, you’re going to flunk out.’ And I just said, ‘The guys are doing it, why can’t I do it?'”

On enjoying your life: “Just pick your passion. Pick what you’re interested in and go for it. . . Life is a long time. You better like what you’re doing or it’s going to seem even longer.”

From Dr. Emily Fawcett

Dr. Fawcett (pictured above, center) is Bloodworks’ Science Engagement Officer.  A graduate of the University of Washington’s Molecular and Cellular Biology program, she is passionate about making science accessible to everyone through creative, educational pop-up events throughout Western Washington and Oregon.

On walking in the footsteps of other women: “I went to graduate school to get my PhD in molecular and cellular biology and – very different from Sherrill’s experience – my class was majority female. I think that says a lot about the path that was paved by the people who came before us.”

On finding inspiration for young girls: “Lego just came out with a Women of NASA series. In mainstream, having someone to look at – even a little Lego in a lab coat – speaks volumes.”

Thank you, Dr. Slichter and Dr. Fawcett. For more information, listen to the full interview or join us on Feb. 20!

Blood Donations Saved My Premature Twins’ Lives

December 26, 2017 at 10:11 pm

Your gift saves lives.

By: DeAnne, mother of twins Mason and Justin.  

When you support Bloodworks, you ensure crucial blood supplies are available to families in need. You’re not just saving a single life. In cases like mine, you’re giving two newborns an opportunity to live.

Twelve years ago, I was thrilled to learn I was pregnant with twins. What could be more exciting! It was my first pregnancy and everything was happening just as it should. That is, until at 22 weeks, I went into premature labor. It was incredibly scary and I feared for the lives of my boys. At the hospital they told me that if my boys were born now they would have a 10 percent chance of survival.

After four weeks of bed rest, my boys were born at 26 weeks. Mason weighed just 2 pounds, 1 ounce when he was born, and Justin weighed even less—1 pound, 13 ounces. Those extra four weeks meant my sons’ chance of survival skyrocketed to 90%, but they were still struggling.

Both boys needed multiple blood transfusions—Mason received four and Justin needed five transfusions, all from Bloodworks Northwest.

To this day I can remember the doctors telling me what a great job Bloodworks does taking care of premature babies. They explained to me that because premature babies don’t need much blood, they can take partial amounts from one blood donor. I could see it was making a difference, making them stronger day by day, so that they could come home and we could be a family.

Those were five frightening months in my life. Now I have two awesome 11-year-old boys who are amazing students, love to learn about science and explore, and are just grateful to be here experiencing life. Thanks to you. When I see blood drives happening, I want to go over and give those donors (you!) a hug and tell you that what you’re doing at one time affected me personally, and helped save my kids.

Your blood has saved the lives of more people than you know. And today, your gift can reach even more. Just as blood from donors like you provides the units needed to perform hundreds of transfusions a day, your financial gift ensures that every single transfusion is safe for the newest life to the wisest. Make your gift today.

Thank you,
DeAnn

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